11.19.2008

The Precipice

We are faced each day with choices that can lead to ruination or the other direction, I hesitate to call it salvation. These include reacting to someone being a jerk in traffic and looking to retaliate, escalate and infuriate. Or seeing what's behind that come-hither look the cute girl in your office gives you despite being married with kids. Or any number of other moral forks we are presented with on a daily basis.

The moment of decision is The Precipice where you can either step off into the unknown or step back from the edge. Most of the time decision isn't even a conscious one, it is guided by your moral code and knowing what is right and what is wrong.

But not all moral quandaries are of the bad sort. Some present opportunities to shine, to lead by example, to help someone else without any expectations in return.

The worst thing about the precipice is that you can go to the edge a million times and step back. But if, in a moment of weakness or outrage, you step over the edge, you can be permanently damned by your next actions. Jing Hua Wu, the guy who got fired and then went back to his job and killed three people, may have been a great guy outside of this horrific crime. He may have been a loving and doting father, a romantic and awesome husband and a good neighbor. But, because he was blinded by his rage at being fired, he gets to be permanently added to the list of the damned for his actions. And rightly so.

The other thought that occurs to me is how hard that first step is and how easy each subsequent step over the edge is. That is, pulling the trigger and killing the first person was probably the most difficult because that is the step over the edge. Each subsequent murder is just accelerating the fall. I know that's a horrible thing to say or write but it is the reality. A thief's most difficult crime is the first one. I've heard interviews with murderers that indicate the first killing is the most difficult. There's a rationality in the mind that the line has been crossed and going further over it does no more harm so why not?

We all face The Precipice every day and 99.99% of us choose to do the right thing 99.99% of the time.

Which Precipice did you look over and then step back from today?
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